Friday, April 18, 2014

On Not Corrupting Mindfulness

I just received the June issue of Mindful Magazine (yes, there is a magazine devoted to mindfulness).  Inside the front cover is a full-page ad for a clothing company called Best Dressed Monk, Attire for the Mindful Man.  I honestly thought it was a joke, but it’s not.  Mindfulness has truly entered the commercial space.

Unfortunately, it’s entered the political space as well.  All too often, proponents of mindfulness wrap the practice up as a world changing force that will bring forth an emergence of a politically progressive agenda.  As if one must think GMOs are always bad or income redistribution is always good to be truly mindful.  Of course, sustainability is a good thing, and self-interest serves society better as enlightened self-interest, but none of this has anything to do with being mindful.

In fact, if mindfulness is truly to be defined as nonjudgmental awareness, proponents of mindfulness must be accepting of all points of view.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Addressing Reactivity and Its Impact

I recently presented to a large group of Direct Support Professionals, people who support individuals with behavioral challenges.  I have conducted similar workshops for family members of those with serious mental illness.  We talk about stress management, self-protection, and the limits of compassion.  We meditate together.  But the topic that always garners the most interest is how the supporters’ own reactivity, or fight or flight response, can precipitate negative behaviors in the individuals they support.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What If It's Not The Stress After All?

A lively debate has begun in the stress management community over Kelly McGonigal’s Ted Talk in which she presents research that indicates it’s not stress that is damaging, but instead one’s attitude toward stress that dictates the damage done to one’s health by stressful situations.  To put it bluntly, stress doesn’t kill people, thinking that stress is bad kills people.  Volition over physiology.

Can we all be so wrong?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mindfulness and Anxiety

Here's another post you may have missed that emphasizes the positive effects of meditation.

From August 2012.

Anxiety disorder is much more than being very nervous or edgy.  In anxiety, a person will report an unreasonable exaggeration of threats, repetitive negative thinking, hyperarousal, and a strong identification with fear.  The fight or flight response is kicked into overdrive and physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and digestive problems often join with the cognitive challenges that anxiety disorder presents.  In General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) the symptoms become so severe that normal daily functioning becomes impossible.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mindfulness and Hypomania

I've written quite a bit lately about the overselling of mindfulness, yet I continue to practice and to teach.  I'd like to repost the following to illustrate something that I think mindfulness is very good for.  Something that can help those who, like me, struggle with bipolar disorder.

From March 2013

I wrote in a post titled Discipline and Diagnostics that one of the benefits of meditation to a person with a mental illness is the ability to detect episodes early.  Well, I’m in one.

It’s been hard to sit at all, let alone for the thirty minutes I do each day.  I find myself agitated and fidgety.  My thoughts are all over the place.  This is not unusual during meditation, but in taking note of the subjects of my thoughts, I can see hypomania creeping in.  I’m thinking of buying stuff.  I’m thinking of trading stocks.  I’m thinking of another career change, discarding good ideas for more exciting, if undoable, ones.  All of my thoughts are about getting and doing.  Anything.  Right now I feel smarter, more creative, and more energetic than I usually do.  That might be dangerous, but that’s what I’m feeling, and that’s what I encounter during meditation.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Too Stressed to Meditate

For the past couple of years, meditation has been easy.  I’d put in some hard work over the previous decade and had found a place of stillness each time I took to the cushion.  Sure, sometimes what I met as I observed my mind was difficult, but my practice had become productive and indispensible.  I spent the last two years as a stay at home Dad of a toddler.  I did all of the Dad, and much of the Mom, stuff.  I managed the house, cleaned (badly), cooked (very well), arranged activities and play dates, and did what I could to keep the family satisfied.  None of this was easy, but my daughter napped every day.  And while she napped I had a solid thirty-five minutes to meditate, without fail.  I taught a couple of classes each week, and led a Wednesday night drop-in meditation group, but that was more rewarding and fulfilling than taxing.

Then, all of it came to an end.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Maybe It's the Discipline

Mindfulness works as a therapy to increase impulse control.  While the results of practice are well-researched, the neurological mechanisms are indeterminate.   Something about mindfulness practice actually changes the cortical make-up of the brain.  Why this happens is not yet known.  It could be the focused attention or the release of judgmental thoughts.  Or, it could be the discipline.